Yin/Yang Thought Exercise

Have you ever wondered why the yin/yang symbol always includes a dot? Seems like kind of a stylistic embellishment, doesn’t it?

Like all things Asian, the symbol is steeped in tradition and symbolism. The dot symbolizes the seed of its opposite. There is nothing pure yin, nothing pure yang. Thus each act of destruction begets creation, each act of creation engenders eventual destruction.

Deep, eh?

I could go on at some length on how to apply this concept to morality, culture, history, politics and technology, but really, all I have to do is plant the seed, right?

Thoughts, anyone?


4 thoughts on “Yin/Yang Thought Exercise”

  1. Ah, the interrelatedness of supposed opposites, always fun to think about. You ever read a Buddhist author named Steve Hagen? You might enjoy him:

    We all long to know the essence of things, but we can only know what things are in their function. In fact, apart from their functions, relationships and components, we do not seem to know what things are at all.

    …But is it, in fact, “just a cup”? Bare and careful attention to what the cup actually is yields quite a different answer. If you really see what you’re calling cup, well, then you must see the sun as well. For many eons, the sun has supplied the earth with energy, and it has helped to evaporate water into the atmosphere. The water has then condensed to form clouds and, for many eons, rain has fallen on the Earth. You have to understand this if you truly see this cup, because over many eons of time, under the sun and with the rain, vegetation began to creep out upon the land, and mosses and lichens began to create soils until eventually trees appeared. These trees get their nourishment from the sun and the rain and the soil. And so, being nourished, the trees grew and produced wood.

    And there was the person who thought to take some clay, and working with it a while, learned to shape it into many useful forms. And someone made a spinning potter’s wheel and shaped the clay into “this cup”. All of this thinking, all this ingenuity and activity, all of this is the “cup” – for we can’t separate all this from what we call “the cup”.

    And someone fashioned an axe and took the wood from the tree and split the wood and dried it in the sun. And someone built a fire. Eventually someone thought of making an oven and baking the clay. All of this goes into our cup.

    All of this is “cup” and must be included if we are to understand the Real Cup. The cup’s identity is not just with itself; it is just as much with everything that it isn’t – with “other”, with “not-self”.

    And where does this “other” end? It doesn’t, because if we think about the sun and the rain and the many ways everything’s connected, and if we think of the life and all that is dependent on the sun and the rain and the turning of the earth and all the stars (which are necessary to define a “turning” Earth), and the whole cosmos – if we think of all this, we can see there is no end to “other” until the whole universe is taken in. The whole universe, everything and every thought, flows right into this cup. That is “cup”.

    Our common view of things is that they are separate from one another. Our mistake is that we take thoroughly relative things for Absolute.

    1. “TO see a world in a grain of sand
      And heaven in a wild flower,
      To hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
      And eternity in an hour”
      Wm Blake

      Suddenly that poem makes so much more sense to me! This was an interpretation I certainly did not expect—to see the seed of the universe within each particle.

      In the philosophy of quantum physics, the greatest object is considered to mirror the smallest particle. I wish i could find a citation for you right now, but alas. The second law of thermodynamics is another aspect of this concept too–all light with eventually dissipate into heat, from which, presumably, the universe will be reborn.

      It blows my mind that once you get past a certain point (about the point where you start to teach yourself, and not have professors spoonfeed it to you) science becomes indistinguishable from philosophy, technology indistinguishable from magic, and history from the future.

    1. Yeah, some of the math parts were a little dense (for me), but I loved it. He has a couple others that I’d recommend to anyone interested in Buddhism or just eastern philosophy in general too. Another author along those lines is Stephen Batchelor, whose translations of Nagarjuna’s Verses from the Center are my favorites. And Alan Watts. Can’t forget him!

      Another snippet of a poem that sort of applies here, from W.H. Auden:

      For we are all insulted by
      The mere suggestion that we die
      Each moment and that each great I
      Is but a process in a process
      Within a field that never closes;
      As proper people find it strange
      That we are changed by what we change,
      That no event can happen twice
      And that no two existences
      Can ever be alike; we’d rather
      Be perfect copies of our father,
      Prefer our idées fixes to be
      True of a fixed reality.
      No wonder, then, we lose our nerve
      And blubber when we should observe…

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